Two accomplices of James Kopp, the convicted assassin of Barnett Slepian, MD, were released yesterday. Loretta Marra and Dennis Malvasi, both active in the extremist anti-abortion movement and Army of God network, pleaded guilty in April to one count of conspiracy in helping Kopp avoid capture. In exchange for their guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to a deal that would have reduced the maximum sentences they faced, from 10 years to five years. Although the prosecutors argued for the full five years, in the end US District Court Judge Carol Amon sentenced them to the 29 months served and ordered their release.
“This ruling sends a disturbing message – that those individuals who provide assistance to anti-abortion extremists terrorizing our nation’s clinics will not face serious consequences,” said Katherine Spillar, executive vice president of the Feminist Majority Foundation. “We have long believed that a network around Kopp aided and abetted him both during his two-and-a-half years on the run from authorities and in planning and carrying out the murder itself.”
Both Marra and Malvasi have extensive ties to the extremist anti-abortion movement, including the Army of God, which is a proponent of justifiable homicide. Malvasi was previously convicted for three clinic bombings and one attempted bombing of clinics in New York in the 1980s. Marra had been arrested many times in clinic blockades, including with James Kopp. The plea deal the couple accepted had been previously rejected by the former judge in this trial, US District Court Judge Richard Arcara in Buffalo. The trial was moved from his court to Brooklyn over his protests. Evidence was presented to Judge Arcara that contradicted Marra and Malvasi’s claim that they did not know that Kopp had committed the murder, including correspondence from Kopp to Marra making references to “returning to the field” and “committing a Ronald Reagan.” The US Attorney explained that Kopp’s statement meant “returning to the field to shoot additional abortion providers.” In ruling against the plea deal, Judge Arcara stated that if they knew Kopp was guilty, that Marra and Malvasi should be considered accessories to Dr. Slepian’s murder. The US Attorney, however, persisted having the charges dismissed in the federal district court in Buffalo and moved to Brooklyn.
At the sentencing hearing on Wednesday, evidence in the form of a government-recorded conversation suggested Marra and Malvasi were planning to approach Michael Bray, also a member of the Army of God and a convicted clinic bomber, to elicit his support in bringing Kopp back to the US so he could start working again, but that Kopp needed a partner “to move around.”
“It is tragic that two people with such extensive and documented backgrounds in anti-abortion terrorism and aiding a convicted murderer are now free,” Spillar said. “A plea deal should never have been accepted, and the case should never have been moved out of Judge Arcara’s courtroom. In this age of terrorism we had hoped for a tougher treatment of domestic terrorists.”
Kopp was convicted of the intentional murder of Dr. Slepian and sentenced to 25 years to life. He still faces additional federal charges for violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act (FACE). Kopp has also been indicted for the 1995 shooting of Ontario abortion provider Dr. Hugh Short. He is the primary suspect in three separate shootings